HC Deb 10 November 1970 vol 806 cc103-5W
Mr. Allason

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to speed up the preparation of development plans.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for simplifying the development plan system in London; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Graham Page

My right hon. Friends have reviewed the system for the preparation and approval of 1968 Act structure plans in England and Wales and consider that in a number of ways the system can be made more efficient and less time consuming. We therefore propose to take both legislative and administrative action, consonant with adequate public participation, to speed up the process. This will enable us to secure structure plans based upon the regional strategies. A regional strategy has already been published for the South-East, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated in his speech to the Countryside in 1970 Conference that strategies for the other regions will follow.

As a main aim of our administration of the new development plan system we propose to secure joint preparatory work by local planning authorities for areas of the size which makes sense in strategic planning terms. Such working in groups is already a feature of the structure plans now in preparation. It cannot, however, under existing powers, be taken to the point of a submission to the Minister of a joint structure plan covering such areas, even where the authorities concerned wish it. We propose, therefore, that for England outside Greater London, and for Wales and Monmouthshire, the appropriate Secretary of State shall have power to authorise local planning authorities, with their consent, to submit a joint structure plan for the agreed area; and to hold his inquiry into that plan.

Our administrative action is concentrating on the need to streamline procedures so that the preparation and approval of structure plans can proceed more effectively and within an acceptable time scale. Work on the regulations and the memorandum on the new system, and on the circular covering the report, "People and Planning" can now be completed and, after the necessary further consultation with interested bodies, made available. The technical Manual on the new plans has recently been published. Also, following the review of the pace of the changeover to the new system, we propose to discuss shortly with further groups of authorities the time for their preparation of structure plans so as to secure a faster programme of 1968 Act plan submissions than had earlier been contemplated.

In Greater London the statutes governing the preparation of structure plans and local plans present particular problems. Once the Greater London Development Plan has been finally approved, with or without modifications, the 32 London Borough Councils and the Corporation of the City of London must each submit, through the G.L.C., a separate Borough structure plan for Ministerial approval. These structure plans when approved are then to be amplified in local plans prepared by each Borough which do not require Ministerial approval. This three-tier system of plan-making is unique to London.

The processing of the G.L.D.P. is bound to be lengthy, and rightly so for a Plan of such evident importance. But the processing thereafter of a further 33 Borough structure plans will be so time-consuming that there is every prospect that the stragegic Plan itself will have required further modification in light of changing circumstances before the last structure plan has been approved and local plans adopted. The Government, therefore, propose to eliminate the necessity for the preparation and Ministerial approval of the 33 Borough structure plans.

This should radically simplify and speed up the plan-making processes in the metropolis. The strategic planning policies for London as a whole will have been laid down in the G.L.D.P. as finally approved, supported by a range of local plans, prepared by the Boroughs, in conformity with the strategic Plan. These local plans are sufficiently flexible in character to cater for planning at the Borough level. They could, if the Boroughs wish, cover the whole or part of their area, and would include such Borough policy statements as they consider necessary.

Details of the necessary amending legislation proposed will be discussed with the local authority association, the G.L.C. and the London Boroughs Association.